Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – May 2024

In Memoriam – May 2024

This month’s music deaths are listed in the actual month they left us. I wouldn’t be able to post the In Memoriam for May in the beginning of June, so I’ll cover the remaining deaths of May with those whom the Reaper will claim in June. But even without the stragglers, there are plenty of great stories to be told, involving a supporting cast as diverse as Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein and Walt Disney.

I have debated with myself whether to include a write-up about punk legend and trailblazing producer Steve Albini. I’ve decided not to, in light of certain revelations about an aspect of his life. Of course, such a write-up would have generously noted his pioneering role in the hugely influential punk outfit Big Black, and his production of albums such as the Pixies’ Surfer Risa and Nirvana’s In Utero, though Albini saw himself as a facilitator rather than a producer. It would have noted his feats in record engineering, and his general iconoclasm and courageous integrity on many issues that gave him such a dedicated fan base. But then there are those revelations. So, having noted the above, I still feel unable to put up a photo of the man.

The Sax Legend
It is a bit unfair that David Sanborn, who has died at 79, is often written off as a smooth jazz merchant, because he was a serious jazz fusion musician — when he wasn’t making the kind of smooth jazz music that got a bad name for the dull non-excesses of the Kenny G types. But at his best, Sanborn made beautiful jazz, smooth or not. Take the featured song, Seduction, from his 1980 Hideway album. It’s not exactly free jazz, but it is a gorgeous tune, delivered well. Sanborn, it may be noted, himself didn’t like the concept of “smooth jazz”.

Sanborn became a name in fusion in the 1970s as a member of the Brecker Brothers band and with a series of solo albums and broke through in 1980 with Hideaway. By then, he had made his bones as a session man, having started out as a member of The Butterfield Blues Band.

As a session man, he played for — deep breath now —  Stevie Wonder, James Brown (on Funky President), David Bowie (on the Young Americans album, including the title track), Bruce Springsteen (on Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out), The Rascals, B.B. King, Donny Hathaway, Todd Rundgren, Gil Evans, The Fabulous Rhinestones, O’Donel Levy (on Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky, which featured on the Me And Playboy mix), Miles Davis, Esther Phillips, Manhattan Transfer, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Michael Franks (including Monkey See-Monkey Do), Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, Bataan, Loudon Wainwright III, Cat Stevens, Elton John, Phoebe Snow, George Benson, Idris Muhammad, Maynard Ferguson, Bob James, Burt Bacharach, Alessi, Garland Jeffreys, Don McLean, Chaka Khan, JD Souther (on You’re Only Lonely), Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon (on You Belong To Me), Dr John, Tim Curry (on I Do The Rock, which featured on A Life In Vinyl 1980), Nils Lofgren, John McLaughlin, Bonnie Raitt, Eagles, Steely Dan and many more…

And that was just in the 1970s! Later, he played on tracks like Bill LaBounty’s wonderful Livin’ It Up (featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1), as well as for big hitters like Billy Joel, Aretha Franklin, The Rolling Stones, Kenny Loggins, The Bee Gees, Roger Waters, Bryan Ferry, Toto, Roberta Flack (on the lovely Oasis), Eric Clapton, Al Jarreau (on So Good, which featured on Any Major Soul 1988/89), Randy Crawford (on her superior version of Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, which featured on Any Major Bob Dylan Songbook Vol. 3), and on the wonderful duets of Jarreau and Crawford on the Casino Lights album, which featured on mixes like Any Major Ashford & Simpson Songbook and Any Major Albums of 1982.

The Electric Light Keyboardist
The distinctive sound of the Electric Light Orchestra is usually attributed to Jeff Lynne, but its creation also owes much to Richard Tandy, who contributed group’s the characteristic keyboards and worked with Lynne to arrange the idiosyncratic strings in the studio recordings.

Tandy, who also played guitar, made his first contribution to a charting record through his old friend Bev Bevan, drummer of The Move, by contributing the harpsichord to the band’s UK #1 hit Blackberry Way. By 1970, The Move trio of Bevan, Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne, formed ELO as a side-project. After Wood decamped to form Wizzard, Tandy joined the band. With Lynne and Bevan, Tandy remained a constant member throughout the band’s hit-making career.

Besides his own projects, Tandy also collaborated on various projects by Lynne.

The Disney Tunesmith
Some of the finest songs from Disney films were written by the brothers Sherman. Now Richard M. Sherman has died at the age of 95, some 12 years after his long-estranged brother Robert. The sons of a well-known Tin Pan Alley songwriter are said to have produced more movie scores than any other songwriting team in history. Their scores and/or songs featured in films such as The Parent Trap, The Sword In The Stone, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs & Broomsticks, The Aristocats, Charlotte’s Web, The Slipper And The Rose, and more, as well ass many stage musical productions.

They won Oscars and Grammys for their Mary Poppins soundtrack, which included standards like A Spoonful Of Sugar, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Chim-Chim-Cheree, which won the Best Song Oscar. Their Sister Suffragette featured in the In Memoriam for January 2024 to mark the death of Glynis Johns. Apparently Feed The Birds was Walt Disney’s favourite song.

Before Disney, the Sherman brothers wrote pop hits such as Your Sixteen (Johnny Burnette, and later Ringo Starr) and Tall Paul (for Anette Funcicello). Their song It’s A Small World (After All), written for the 1964 World Fair in New York City, is reportedly the most publicly performed song of all time, by virtue of being played on rides in all Disney theme parks.

Before the songwriting, Richard Sherman was a US soldier in World Way II, and was among the first US troops to enter Dachau concentration camp.

The Hard Rock Pioneer
With the death of lead singer Doug Ingle, the classic line-up of Iron Butterfly is now gone (a sentence I have to write more often these days, as I will again twice a couple of entries down). Iron Butterfly were greatly influential on all hard rock music of the 1970s.

Their centre-piece was the interminable In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which was written by Ingle in one night, while he was drunk on red wine. Drummer Ron Bushy wrote down the lyrics for Ingle to sing, but in his inebriated state, the singer slurred the words “in the Garden of Eden” as “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. And thus one of rock’s more mystifying song titles was born.

After Iron Butterfly split in 1971, Ingle had stints with the groups Stark Naked and Car Thieves, but he was no longer part of the Iron Butterfly when they reformed in 1974, or in subsequent reunions.

The Folk Influencer
Last month we lost the last of The Limeliters in Alex Hassilev; this month the last of another influential folk trio passed away. “Spider” John Koerner was the leader, guitarist and a vocalist of the folk-blues trio Koerner, Ray & Glover.

As an 18-year-old in 1956, Koerner began to study aeronautical engineering but dropped that to make music. Instead he formed a folk band with Dave Ray and Tony Glover in Minneapolis, with whom the gifted songwriter became a pioneering figure in the folk born of the early 1960s. In Minneapolis, Koerner took a youngster under his wing who soon would make his mark in New York under the name of Bob Dylan. They sometimes performed as a duo, and Dylan remembered Koerner fondly in his autobiography.

Koerner recorded three studio albums with Ray & Glover, as well as collaborations with others, and several solo sets. Folk experts rate Koerner’s influence on folk and guitar-playing highly, crediting him with being able to fuse folk and blues in an original way, rather than simply copying existing blues styles.

The Hit Drummer
In the mid-1940s, a man was stranded in a boat that had run out of gas. Luckily, a passing woman was able to help the hapless fellow to the shore, while he held her infant in his arms. The luckless sailor was Albert Einstein; the infant future rock drummer John Barbata.

Barbata went on to have a bunch of hits as the drummer of The Turtles, including the classic Happy Together. The band was part of the Laurel Canyon scene (see Any Major Laurel Canyon), so when Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young fired drummer Dallas Taylor in 1970, Barbata was roped in. He played on eight of their albums, as well as on records by the individual members. Being with CSN&Y, Barbata turned down an offer to join the upcoming band Eagles.

In the interim, he joined Jefferson Airplane in 1972, and made the transition to Jefferson Starship. In between, he played sessions for the likes of Ry Cooder, JD Souther, John Sebastian, Judee Sill, The Everly Brothers, PF Sloan, Linda Ronstadt, Dave Mason, and (unreleased) Joni Mitchell.

His time with Jefferson Starship ended in 1978, when Barbata broke his neck, arm and jaw in 32 pieces in a car crash. With that, he retired from the music industry, though he still recorded and performed on the side.

The Machine Gun
In February we lost Wayne Kramer of the seminal proto-punk group MC5. Now drummer Dennis Thompson has died at 75 — which means that the classic MC5 line-up is now all gone.

Thompson, who joined the band in 1965, was known as “Machine Gun” for his ferocious drumming, which would come to influence the punk movement that followed in MC5’s trail, as well as metal drummers.

The Arranging Saxophonist
Having made his recording debut as a 22-year-old in 1949, jazz saxophonist Bill Holman’s career as a musician, composer and arranger spanned seven decades, during which he released his own albums and worked with some of the biggest names in jazz. And he arranged a number of pop hits as well.

His career as a sideman was most closely tied to Stan Kenton, but he also played with the likes of Chet Baker, Bud Shank, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, Terry Gibbs, Maynard Ferguson, Art Pepper, Shorty Rogers, Buddy Bregman, and others.

He also arranged and/or composed for many of them, as well as for Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan, Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Louie Bellson, Sarah Vaughn, Anita O’Day, Peggy Lee, Carmen McRae, Buddy Rich, Zoot Sims, and others.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Holman also did arrangements, usually alongside Bones Howe and Bob Alcivar, for pop acts, especially several hits for The 5th Dimension, but also including the likes of The Monkees, The Association (Never My Love, Windy), The Sandpipers (Come Saturday Morning), and Seals & Croft. From the 1990s, he also arranged for Natalie Cole, Diane Schuur, Tony Bennett and Michael Bublé, among others.

Holman was involved in many Grammy-winning recordings, though he was personally awarded “only” three, out of 16 nominations.

The Yodeller
In the pop interregnum between Elvis’ conscription and the rise of The Beatles, Frank Ifield was one of the biggest stars in the UK, with his trademark yodel which punctuated his easy listening country fare. He peaked in 1962/63, when in the space of a year he scored five consecutive Top 5 hits, four of them hitting #1 — I Remember You (also a US #5), Lovesick Blues, Wayward Wind, and Confessin’. He’d reach the Top 10 one more time in 1964; by 1966 his time on the charts was over, other than a novelty dance remix of his song She Taught Me How To Yodel, renamed The Yodeling Song, in 1991.

Born in England, his Australian family had returned home in 1948, when Frank was 11. He grew up on a farm, listening to hillbilly music, while milking cows. Having recorded as few minor hits in Australia, he moved to England in 1959, returning home only in 1986.

The Vocal Coach
She released only three studio albums, but her work was mostly behind the scenes. Peggi Blu was best-known as an award-winning vocal coach, most visibly on American Idol, and as the 1986 winner of the TV talent show Star Search.

Blu did a lot of backing vocals for some big names, including Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Esther Phillips, Elkie Brooks, Stephanie Mills, The Weather Girls, Quincy Jones, Tracy Chapman (on Freedom Now), The Manhattans, Kylie Minogue, Leonard Cohen, Aaron Neville, Young M.C., among others. She also was one of several backing singers on the Irene Cara hit Fame, alongside Luther Vandross.

Blu released three albums between 1980 and 2002. Her 1987 set Blu Blowin’ was a very good collection which merited greater success than it achieved.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Richard Tandy, 76, English keyboardist of ELO, announced May 1
The Move – Blackberry Way (1968, on harpsichord)
Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman (1975)
Electric Light Orchestra – Confusion (1979)
Tandy & Morgan – Suddenly (1986)

Richard Maloof, 84, bassist, tuba player in Lawrence Welk orchestra, on May 1

Gary Floyd, 71, singer of punk band Dicks, on May 2
Dicks – Sidewalk Begging (1984)

John Pisano, 92, jazz guitarist, on May 2
John Pisano & Billy Bean – Take Your Pick (1958)
Sam Cooke – (Ain’t That) Good News (1964, on guitar)

Jim Mills, 57, bluegrass banjo player, on May 3
Dolly Parton – Little Sparrow (2001, on banjo)

Ken Brader, 70, jazz trumpeter, on May 4

Ron Kavana, 73, Irish singer-songwriter, on May 4
Ron Kavana & The Alias Acoustic Band – Reconciliation (2005)

Miroslav Imrich, 71, singer of Czech rock band Abraxas, on May 4

Willie Hona, 70, ex-guitarist of New Zealand reggae band Herbs, on May 5
Herbs – Slice Of Heaven (1986)

Eric ‘E.T.’ Thorngren, producer and engineer, on May 6
Squeeze – Hourglass (1987, as co-producer, arranger and engineer)

Bill Holman, 96, jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger, on May 6
Stan Kenton and His Orchestra – Bags And Baggage (1952, on tenor saxophone)
Bill Holman – Far Down Below (1958, also as composer, conductor and producer)
The 5th Dimension – One Less Bell To Answer (1970, as co-arranger)
Diane Schuur – Deed I Do (1991, as arranger and conductor)

Christiane Stefanski, 74, Belgian singer, on May 6

Wayland Holyfield, 82, country songwriter, on May 6
Don Williams – You’re My Best Friend (1975, as writer)

Steve Albini, 61, punk musician with Big Black, producer and engineer, on May 7
Big Black – He’s A Whore (1987)
Pixies – Where Is My Mind (1988, as producer and engineer)
Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box (1993, as producer and engineer)

Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski, 88, Polish jazz musician, composer and arranger, on May 7

Phil Wiggins, 69, harmonica player of blues duo Cephas & Wiggins, on May 7
Bowling Green John Cephas & Harmonica Phil Wiggins – Police Dog Blues (1989)

John Barbata, 79, drummer of The Turtles, CSNY, Jefferson Airplane/Starship, on May 8
The Turtles – Elenore (1968)
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (live) 1971, on drums)
Jefferson Starship – Miracles (1975, as member)

Conrad Kelly, 65, Jamaican ex-drummer of UK reggae band Steel Pulse, on May 8
Steel Pulse – Settle The Score (1997)

Giovanna Marini, 87, Italian singer-songwriter, on May 8
Giovanna Marini – Persi le forze mie (1976)

Suzette Lawrence, 66, singer-songwriter, on May 9

Dennis Thompson, 75, drummer of MC5, on May 9
MC5 – Looking At You (1970)
MC5 – Over And Over (1971)

Fred Noonan, drummer of Australian swamp rock group Six Ft Hick, on May 9

David Sanborn, 78, jazz and session alto saxophonist, on May 12
Stevie Wonder – Tuesday Heartbreak (1971, on alto sax)
David Sanborn – The Seduction (Love Theme) (1980)
Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1982, on alto sax)
Bob James & David Sanborn – Maputo (1989)

Enrico Musiani, 86, Italian singer, on May 13

Christian Escoudé, 76, French gypsy jazz guitarist, on May 13
Christian Escoudé & Jean-Charles Capon – Gousti (1980)

Mélanie Renaud, 42, Canadian singer, on May 14

Jimmy James, 83, Jamaican-British singer, on May 14
Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – Ain’t Love Good, Ain’t Love Proud (1966)
Jimmy James & The Vagabonds – I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me (1976)

John Hawken, 84, English keyboardist, on May 15
Nashville Teens – Tobacco Road (1964, as member)
Strawbs – Shine On Silver Sun (1973, as member)

Missinho, 64, singer with Brazilian Axé band Chiclete com Banana, on May 17

Jean-Philippe Allard, 67, French jazz producer, on May 17
John McLaughlin – Django (1995, as producer)
Abbey Lincoln – Black Berry Blossoms (2000, as producer)

Frank Ifield, 86, English-born Australian country singer, on May 18
Frank Ifield – I Remember You (1962)
Frank Ifield – Up Up And Away (1967)

John Koerner, 85, songwriter, guitarist, singer with folk trio Koerner, Ray & Glover, on May 18
Koerner, Ray & Glover – Black Dog (1964, on shared lead vocals)
‘Spider’ John Koerner – Spider Blues (1965, also as writer)
John Koerner & Willie Murphy – Running, Jumping, Standing Still (1969, also as co-writer)

Palle Danielsson, 77, Swedish jazz double bassist, on May 18

Jon Wysocki, 53, drummer of alt.rock group Staind, on May 18
Staind – It’s Been A While (2001)

Peggi Blu, 77, soul singer, American Idol vocal coach and judge, on May 19
Irene Cara – Fame (1980, on backing vocals)
Peggi Blu – Once Had Your Love (And I Can’t Let Go) (1987)
Tracy Chapman – Freedom Now (1989, on backing vocals)

Jan A. P. Kaczmarek, 71, Polish Oscar-winning film composer, on May 21
Jan A.P. Kaczmarek – The Peter Pan Overture (from Finding Neverland) (2005, as composer)

Charlie Colin, 58, ex-bassist of rock group Train, on May 22
Train – Drops Of Jupiter (2001)

Toni Montano, c.61, Serbian rock musician, on May 22

Doug Ingle, 78, ex-lead singer of Iron Butterfly, songwriter, on May 25
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (single version) (1968, as writer)
Iron Butterfly – In The Times Of Our Lives (1969, also as co-writer)
Iron Butterfly – Easy Rider (Let The Wind Pay The Way) (1970, also as co-writer)

Richard M. Sherman, 95, American film songwriter, on May 25
Johnny Burnette – You’re Sixteen (1960, as co-writer)
Julie Andrews – A Spoonful Of Sugar (1964, as co-writer)
Louis Prima – I Wanna Be Like You (1967, as co-writer)

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  1. amdwhah
    May 26th, 2024 at 20:58 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Hmmm
    May 27th, 2024 at 09:47 | #2

    Pretty gutless to make vague allusions to “revelations” without specifics. Performative at best, be proud of what a brave figure you are making such a stand. :rolleyes: But hey, Elvis Presley was a pedophile and you have him here.

  3. amdwhah
    May 27th, 2024 at 11:24 | #3

    Gutless? With the expectation, that there will be angry responses, like yours, I think the opposite applies. If I had specified the allegations (well, revelations; we have Albini’s own words), I’d have been criticised for that too.

    I really struggled with the decision to omit Albini’s photo; to say I was making a performative stand is complete nonsense. But, hey, if my editorial decisions displease you, I’ll gladly refund you the money you paid to read my work.

    Also, I suspect Albini on principle would not approve of your whataboutery.

  4. Steve Albini’s ghost
    May 28th, 2024 at 23:36 | #4

    @Hmmm Fuck off dick wad. Love, Steve

  5. Rhodb
    June 2nd, 2024 at 00:05 | #5

    Amd you are entitled to your opinion bugger what other people think Keep going a wonderful site

  6. Hamster
    June 2nd, 2024 at 11:05 | #6

    Thanks for putting in the work again to get the list up for us. Frank Ifield always seemed to be on our TV when I was a kid and, although not a yodelling fan, quite nostalgic to hear those tunes again. Loved David Sanborn’s sax playing on Bowie’s album and dug out the youtube video of him with Bowie playing Young Americans on Saturday Night Live. More nostalgia. Cheers!

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